Vermont (& New England) Diary Part II – the search for raw milk

I have been so busy gardening and cooking and enjoying the last few weeks of summer that I never got around to writing "Vermont Diary - Part II", the thrilling sequel to "Vermont Diary - Part I." Contributing to my negligence was a short trip to Maine, highlights of which I will include in this short piece about why I love New England.

The day after my visit to Walter Jeffries' Sugar Mountain Farm and my fantastic Belted Galloway burger dinner at Juniper's, I was driving aimlessly around the back roads of Vermont, looking for trouble. When I write "looking for trouble", I'm not referring to getting into a brawl in a biker bar, but convincing a farmer to break the law and sell me a gallon of raw milk. While driving, I happily noticed a lot of hand-painted signs made by residents who were selling their own wares from their own homes. There were definitely no middlemen around these parts.

A good sign (you can take this double-entendre any way you like) was a large hand-painted anti-NAIS billboard on the side of a barn near Orleans. It was over ten feet tall and the farmers who painted it were more than willing to have a nice chat about food, farming, and ethics — but they wouldn't release any contraband dairy. I also stopped at a small farm and bought a dozen eggs, but once again not a drop of raw milk. I think these eggs were intended for locals because they were priced at $1.50. In Montreal, "organic" eggs cost over $5 a dozen. 

I pulled over at a farm that had a beautiful bull in the front yard — pictured to the right - and the farmers told me that they drink raw milk every day but they simply couldn't sell it. If I wanted some of their milk, the nice farmer told me, I would have to drive about half a mile down the road to the general store where their milk was mixed with other farmers milk a few towns over and then pasteurized to rid it of it's beneficial (and possibly harmful) bacteria. Foiled again!

For variety, I stopped at another farm and got another dozen eggs. I'd have bought more eggs, but the Canadian government only allows each traveler to cross the border with no more than two dozen eggs. With terrorism alerts at an all-time high (for the past six consecutive years), the government has to be careful how many eggs they allow to cross their borders.

The farmer's 14-year-old son, who sold me the eggs, bragged to me that raw milk was all he ever drank. "I've never had pasteurized milk," he added, telling me that he cannot possibly sell me a gallon of raw milk — his parents simply wouldn't let him. I half-jokingly asked if he was allowed to invite me into his home and give me a glass of raw milk. He mulled it over and happily invited me into the kitchen, where I met his parents. While I enjoyed a big glass of raw milk from their refrigerator, we discussed the benefits of raw milk and the unfortunate situation which prohibited them from selling their milk unpasteurized.

A couple of weeks later, while visiting my family in Maine, I shopped at a Saturday farmers market in York which was everything I thought it would be. I bought some of the best corn I have ever eaten along with some long skinny purple eggplants and some bright green zucchini which were grilled later that evening and enjoyed along with our factory-farm raised meat. There is only so much I can influence my family, so far. I also drove by Arrows restaurant, where the owners cure their own hams and fish, make all desserts and breads in house, and utilize their huge gardens for produce. I promised ymslef I would eat there next year, when I had Noshette with me.

On my way back to Montreal, on the back roads of New Hampshire, where I was hoping to score some fresh eggs, I saw a brown hand-painted sign that pointed me down a road to the end of a long driveway. Sitting there on a small platform was a refrigerator where locals could grab a dozen eggs and leave the $2 in a cash box inside the refrigerator. Bless the honour system! I grabbed a dozen and continued along my way.

I really love New England. If I didn't need a green card (which is pretty hard thing to get these days) I would seriously consider moving there. It is filled with tons of small farms, lots of rivers and lakes, plenty of mountains, not too many skyscrapers, and hopefully, one day, me.

19 Responsesto “Vermont (& New England) Diary Part II – the search for raw milk”

  1. Too bad about the milk. It shouldn't have been a problem, though, since Vermont and New Hampshire farmers can sell it directly from the farm, under state laws. There are some daily quantity limits, but that's it. Maybe the farms Peter hit keep it all for the family.

  2. Joanna says:

    That's funny. We all want to move to Canada, and you want to come here. Hey, I'll trade you some raw milk for free national health insurance!

    Nice post.

  3. celeste says:

    Here is some info re: massachusetts just in case you were wondering.
    the last time I was on the mass.gov website, i believed I read it was legal to sell raw milk, as long as it was labeled that way.

  4. Jamie says:

    I live in central Alabame and just down the road is a wonderful farm, wrightdairy.com. They sell pasteurized not homogenized milk. You have to shake the jug every time before you pour. This is the only milk I can drink, regular [homogenized] milk makes my stomach hurt.

    Their icecream is unbelievable and so is their cheese and butter.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I had no problem getting raw milk when I lived in Vermont. It's perfectly legal as long as you go at milking time (usually early morning or late afternoon) and bring your own container. In my experience, most dairy farms are happy to sell it to you this way.

  6. Peter aka Nosher of the North says:

    @David - The farmers I approached all told me that they had signed contracts that prohibited them from selling any of their milk to anyone else. I'll try harder next time...trust me.

    @Joanna - Where do you live? I'll lend you my medicare card for some raw milk!!!

    @Celeste - I guess I was in the wrong state. My sister lives in Rhode Island, which of course is the only state that absolutely prohibits raw milk, so i will try to visit a small dairy next time i visit her. Thanks!

    @Rebecca - I guess I approached the wrong farms. Hopefully I'll have better luck next time.

  7. I really enjoyed your story. Very Interesting. I haven't searched through your website but do you have the benifits and negatives of RAW Milk?

    Thanks,
    DD

  8. Harold J Macek says:

    You say you wish to live in the USA ? That would be fine with me..and do not worry about anything, because any one can live here..As shown by the millions of illegals from the south border do today..Just tell the politicians you will vote for them, and your in..

  9. Danielle says:

    I live in Lancaster County, Pa and we're blessed with many, many farmers that sell raw milk. There are two types: those that go for their permits and those that do not [because they don't believe in some of the guidelines that are required--such as using harmful chemicals to clean milking equipment]. It has been an ongoing debate in this county, but so far it's still legal. I also enjoy raw cheese [aged over 60 days], but there is talk of making even that illegal. Cottage cheese and yogurt is currently illegal but sold anyway [thus the lawsuits that are being filed against the farmers]. Anyway, I love my raw milk and would opt to not drink milk at all if it wasn't available to me...or maybe get my own cow. :)

  10. Peter aka Nosher of the North says:

    @David Dempster: There are many sites that discuss the pros, the cons, and the varying opinions on raw milk. I personally believe, and keep in mind that I am not a biologist or expert, that pasteurization laws were put into place about 100 years ago when most milk sat for days in dirty unrefrigerated barrels and was shipped from rural farms to city centers in unrefrigerated trucks. A lot of this milk was spoiled by the time it reached the city, and pasteurization allowed it to keep longer. I am under the impression, as are millions of people who are not invested in the processed dairy industry, that raw milk, if transported from farm to city in refrigerated trucks, can be perfectly safe if it comes from healthy cows. The "healthy cows" issue is now the big concern. I do not want to drink raw milk, or even pasteurized milk, from a cow that was fed corn, processed dead animal parts, and antibiotics all its life.

  11. Valereee says:

    In Ohio, it's illegal to sell raw milk. What is legal, however, are herdshare agreements. A local dairy farmer sold me 1/25th of one of his cows for $50. Each month I pay $22 for my portion of that cow's board and care, and each week I drive out to the farm (it's illegal for him to bring it to me) and pick up a gallon of fresh, whole, raw milk.

  12. pattie says:

    There is a public hearing on the whole raw milk issue here in Georgia on November 2. It is currently legal to sell it as pet milk as long as it is clearly labeled ("Pet Milk. Not for Human Consumption") The State is about to add grey dye to it. It is causing quite the uproar.

  13. Peter, as I'm sure you're aware, the sale of raw milk is illegal here in Ontario, as well. I tasted raw milk for the first time in September, at an annual event called Feast of Fields. Michael Schmidt, a farmer and raw milk advocate who'd been harassed by the government for years and who is facing yet another court battle over his "cow share" program, was providing samples of raw milk. It was delicious, and this is coming from someone who can only tolerate milk if it's accompanied by chocolate cake or chocolate cookies.

    We've published a story about Michael Schmidt's crusade in the Winter issue of Edible Toronto Magazine. I thought you might be interested. http://www.edibletoronto.com/pages/articles/win2007/pdfs/michaelSchmidt.pdf

    Gail Gordon Oliver
    Publisher and Editor
    EDIBLE TORONTO MAGAZINE

  14. I live 20 minutes north and a little west of Concord NH. One of my state reps is a farmer (started in the '60s) who sells raw milk at the door - never has enough...

  15. David Kendall says:

    For several summers, when visiting central Vermont from California, we found a farm where we could get raw milk near Enosburg Falls.  Last month, the situation had changed and farmers could advertise their raw milk.  Now we can get our udderly delicious drink in Randolph Center near Neighborly Farms.  When we got home, we found their raw cheese in our local co-op.

    Wonderful state. Wonderful people who still have their feet deep in the soil.  Robert Frost was a lucky man

  16. Peter aka Nosher of the North says:

    @David Kendall:
    Can you email me the details on where you got your raw milk in Vermont? I will be passing through the area in 2 weeks and would love to get a gallon.
    Thanks,
    Peter
     

  17. Peter aka Nosher of the North says:

    @Brandon sussman:
    Same request - I will be driving through Concord in 2 weeks...what are the chances I can arrange for some raw milk?
    Thanks,
    Peter

  18. David Kendall says:

    Peter & Brandon,
    We bought milk from Stuart & Margret Osha.  They are at 55 Turkey Hill Rd in Randolph Center, VT 802 828-7064.  Good folks & good milk.  Margaret would likely appreciate knowing if you are familiar with Weston Price and / or are a member of WAPF.

    The cheese, we got at Neighborly Farms - which is located at the intersection of No. Randolph Rd & Curtis Rd.  Curtis Rd turns into Turkey Hill.  Just follow your nose.

    The Osha's milk may be spoken for on any given day, so give them a call and introduce yourself.

    David

    You can emal me at dave...@juno.com

  19. Ellen says:

    Just an FYI - the availability of raw milk is one of core issues of the Weston A Price Foundation.  They have formed an organization called the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund to help farmers like Michael Schmidt battle the USDA over selling raw milk.  To find more go to http://www.realmilk.org
    I also have a raw milk page on my website with links to many more resources about raw milk at the bottom of the page.  http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/raw-milk.html
    I belong to a raw milk driving coop and get a 1/2 gallon every week.  I can't drink pasteurized milk, but I love my raw milk.